Discussion Papers

Christian Growitsch, Matthias Wissner

Die Liberalisierung des Zähl- und Messwesens

Nr. 298 / September 2007


With the reform of the German energy law in 2005, the liberalisation of metering activities that were previously reserved to grid operators was implemented. While the process of meter operation, i.e. installation, operation and maintenance of meters is already opened, the process of meter reading, i.e. data retrieval, data preparation and data processing needs a corresponding enactment by the Federal Government to be liberalised.

Currently there are 16 companies registered at the German Association of Grid Operators (VDN), about 6 to 9 of them are independent of any grid operator. The number of requests to carry out meter operations by third parties amounted to about 2000 in 2005, which is still negligible with respect to about 40 Mio meters in households alone. Liberalisation is expected to generate an increase in welfare because the transition from a monopolistic or regulated environment to a competitive market with prices oriented at marginal costs is taking place. However, there are still high barriers hampering market entry of new actors. For example, there are high entry costs because specific technologies and processes of each grid operator lead to lacking interoperability when new entrants want to utilize their own metering devices in the grids of a third grid operator. Quantitative analyses of grid charges and metering prices of grid operators in the time between 2000 and 2006 show slightly decreasing metering prices.

Along with market liberalisation meters themselves have made a great leap forward in terms of technology. The capabilities of intelligent (smart) meters go far beyond those of mechanical Ferraris meters and can therefore build the basis for more efficient process flows and new products and services. For example, the offering of time dependent tariffs or an easier involvement of ultimate customers in grid load management processes is possible.

In other countries different liberalisation approaches have been chosen. In the UK, grid operators have formerly been responsible for meter operation. In the course of liberalisation the right to choose a meter operator was transferred to the suppliers that select meter operators by tenders mostly. In the electricity sector 20 % of meter operation is carried out on a competitive basis. In the Netherlands, final customers are entitled to carry out meter operation and meter reading themselves or to engage a third party. The products of new service companies focus mainly on the load-sensitive area, there. Regulatory need for action in Germany mainly relates to a strict cost control of the single processes meter operation, meter reading and billing when carried out by network operators in order to rule out cross subsidisation between these fields. Furthermore, the liberalisation of meter reading should follow as soon as possible. [only a german version available]

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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